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Interview With Chicago, Illinois, Mayor Lori Lightfoot; Bill de Blasio Tells New York City to Prepare for Possible Shelter-in-Place Order; Mitch McConnell Speaks Out on Coronavirus Crisis. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 17, 2020 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:03]

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): In particular, we are preparing bold steps to ensure that Main Street can access liquidity and credit during this extraordinary time.

So, let me outline for you what we have been doing.

I have divided -- created three task forces among Senate Republicans, each of them tasked with coming up with what could best be described as the next bill.

We're trying to reach an agreement among ourselves as to what Senate Republicans and the administration favor doing next.

With regard to the bill that came over from the House, there was some discussion about whether to amend that with a bigger proposal, because we all know bigger proposal is necessary.

But I have decided we're going to go on and vote as soon as the Senate can get permission to vote on the bill that came over from the House, send it down to the president for signature, and thus reassure the people around the country that we can operate on a bicameral bipartisan basis quickly.

Second, we will not leave, the Senate will not leave until we have passed yet another bill. And, clearly, that will have to go in two steps. As I indicated earlier, first, Senate Republicans and the administration are going to try to reach an agreement on what we think is best for what could best be described as phase three.

Then, the Senate -- me and the Senate, we will sit down with our Democratic counterparts and see what we can agree to, that we will not leave, the Senate will not leave town until we have processed yet another bill to address this emergency.

With that, I will be happy to take a few questions.

Yes.

QUESTION: Yesterday, President Trump suggested that the social distancing may be required for the summer. Would that mean that this $1,000 that is being talked about as far as

this third tranche of a bill could go on until -- how long are you planning on giving people--

(CROSSTALK)

MCCONNELL: Well, all that is things that we will address in the next bill that we're beginning to write already.

The details of that, I can't tell you yet. But we know an additional bill of much larger proportions is necessary to meet this crisis. If we bend the health care curve, that will determine really how long this emergency lasts.

And that has required extraordinary measures that basically have us in the unusual position of the American government, in effect, shutting down the American economy in order to meet these health concerns.

If we can get on top of the health care concerns and bend the curve,, we hope that this will be of limited duration.

Yes.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MCCONNELL: What I'm telling you is, we are going to take up and pass the House bill as soon as the Senate gives us permission to do it.

And then Senate Republicans, in conjunction with the administration, are going to write a next bill. The Senate being the Senate, we will then discuss with the Democrats what we can agree to pass, which will, of course, take 60 votes.

The details of that obviously have not been determined yet.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MCCONNELL: The details will be worked out in a way that I just outlined.

And so I can't give you an answer, particularly on a large question like that, about what the overall cost of it will be. We haven't determined that yet. And, obviously, that final determination will be made in consultation with our Democratic colleagues here in the Senate.

What I can tell you is, we're not leaving town until we have constructed and passed another bill. Basically, phase three would be the best way to look at it.

Yes?

QUESTION: Leader McConnell, are any Democrats going to be on these three task force?

And at what point did Republicans become comfortable in spending a trillion dollars at this point?

MCCONNELL: I just said the first step is for Republicans to largely agree on what we think is the best way to address this emergency.

[15:05:03]

And, second, we will consult with our Democratic colleagues and see what we can agree to. That is the way that we will go forward here in the Senate. And we will stay here until we do reach a bipartisan agreement and achieve at least 60 votes to pass it.

Yes.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MCCONNELL: Back in the back.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MCCONNELL: What's the indication on what? You talking about timing?

QUESTION: For the cash payments to Americans. (OFF-MIKE)

MCCONNELL: Well, anything that requires legislation will not be able to move until we pass legislation.

Is that what you're talking about?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MCCONNELL: They will do whatever they are allowed to do administratively as quickly as they can. The rest of it will require our permission legislatively.

The first thing we're going to do take up and pass the bill that came over from the House. And the second phase, I outlined a couple of times already. And that's the way we're going to go forward.

Yes.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) This still is a lag time in repaying small businesses for the sick time for their employees.

Can you address the concern about that lag time for small businesses? (OFF-MIKE) And then once bill number three stimulus gets through the Congress, as you expect or working on, are you considering then recessing the Senate for a significant period of time?

MCCONNELL: A number of my members think there are considerable shortcomings in the House bill. My counsel to them is to gag and vote for it anyway, even if they think it has some shortcomings, and to address those shortcomings in the bill that we're in the process of crafting.

I cannot predict how long we will be here, but we will be here as long as it takes to pass yet another measure beyond the one that came over from the House.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MCCONNELL: I can't answer that.

Yes.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) We've been told that a number of Republicans and -- I guess on the Rules Committee are working on intentionally voting from home.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCONNELL: No, we will not -- yes, we will not be doing that.

Look, this -- there are a number of different ways to avoid getting too many people together.

Just to give you a hypothetical -- this is not set in stone that a vote -- roll call vote goes on only for 15 minutes. We could lengthen the amount of the roll call vote. People could come over one at a time, come over in small groups.

We will deal with the social distancing issue without fundamentally changing the Senate rules.

Yes?

QUESTION: People are still going to the supermarkets and seeing all this -- so much uncertainty. What do you want tell (OFF-MIKE)

MCCONNELL: Well, the way -- the way to indicate certainty is to get about doing what we're talking about, to see bipartisan, bicameral action.

And that will happen on the House-passed bill as soon as we can clear whatever procedural issues we have to clear it to get it across the Senate floor and get it down to the president for a signature. And then we're going to -- we're going to move here in warp speed for the Senate, which almost never does anything quickly.

I think everyone on both sides of the aisle is seized with the urgency of moving on yet another bill, and we intend to do that.

QUESTION: Senator McConnell?

MCCONNELL: Yes.

QUESTION: Senator Paul (OFF-MIKE) as part of the second House bill in order to let you move quickly (OFF-MIKE)

MCCONNELL: He generally -- well, you will have to ask him.

But, usually, he wants to offer an amendment to pay for these kind of bills. He's usually willing to let us have that vote and move on. I hope that will be the case this time. QUESTION: Senator McConnell, eventually, you're going to have to make

a deal with Senator Schumer and the speaker.

MCCONNELL: Yes.

QUESTION: So, I'm wondering, why not do that first?

(LAUGHTER)

MCCONNELL: I think the best way to proceed is the way I outlined. And then we will have a clear indication of where most of the Republicans are. And we will sit down and talk to our colleagues on the other side of the aisle and reach an agreement.

QUESTION: But is it important to send a message about national unity?

MCCONNELL: Sure. And that -- that will be underscored by the overwhelming bipartisan vote of the House-passed bill, and by, ultimately, an overwhelming bipartisan support for yet another bill which will originate in the Senate.

Yes.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) McConnell (OFF-MIKE) discussions over the last year about the Tax Cut and Jobs Act there needs to be corrections made to it to help retailers and small businesses change the operating loss rules.

Will those things come up during the course of this discussion? And might that make the same arguments come up over again about how (OFF- MIKE)

(LAUGHTER)

[15:10:07]

MCCONNELL: Look, the goal here is to deal with this emergency created by this pandemic.

And anything that doesn't address that pandemic, it seems to me, should not be considered. We're working on trying to deal with this public health crisis, which we are trying to bend the curve on quickly.

And anything that addresses plugging that gap for small businesses and for individuals, hopefully on a short-term basis, because if the advice Dr. Fauci and others are giving us is followed, we hope we're going to begin to bend the curve and get back to normal, because the underlying economy before all this came along was in very good shape.

Yes.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Can you just talk about the moment Republicans became OK with spending perhaps up to a trillion dollars? Is it the stock market? Is the health risk? Like, what shifted among (OFF-MIKE)

MCCONNELL: Well, I mean, I have been through a few of these. I was here at 9/11. I was here during the financial crisis in '08.

And I was here during the fiscal cliff. We occasionally have these great crises. And when they occur, we're able to rise above our normal partisanship and many times our normal positions, because these are not ordinary times.

This is not an ordinary situation. And so it requires extraordinary measures.

Yes.

QUESTION: Is there a role for Congress to play in helping these states that worry they don't have enough ICU beds, enough ventilators as this spread becomes much worse?

MCCONNELL: All of that deals with the substance of measures that we are either about to pass or will pass soon, the contents of which are being negotiated?

QUESTION: Have you been satisfied with what states are getting from the federal government?

MCCONNELL: We're not satisfied with where we are, or we wouldn't be immediately turning to yet another bill.

And we will be doing that shortly. I'm going to take one more, because I think we're getting a little repetitive here.

Yes?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Can you say what senators you're going to put (OFF-MIKE)

MCCONNELL: Yes, what I -- oh, that's a good question.

What I have said, you can't you can't have 53 people write the bill, right? So what I have done is pick out groups of people to deal with three separate categories. And then I have told everyone else that, if they have a really good idea, I have told them how to funnel that idea into that particular task force, because this is a Herculean task from a legislative point of view to try to craft something this significant with 53 people.

It just can't be done. So, everyone has a way to funnel in their particular suggestions to one of these three task forces. These task forces will be working with the Treasury Department and Secretary Mnuchin his team to see if we can reach a Republican consensus, so we know where we are.

My understanding is, Senator Schumer has laid out, to get back to your question, where they are. I'm in the process of crafting where we are and then, at the logical time, to sit down and make a deal, and that's what we intend to do. And we're going to do it before we leave here.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MCCONNELL: In a sensible way. It doesn't make any -- honestly, it's not particularly -- it's not particularly newsworthy.

Yes.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) clarify for us?

(LAUGHTER)

MCCONNELL: I think you're getting down too far into the weeds.

We're -- our goal today will be to try to move forward and take up and pass as soon as we can the bill that's come over from the House. And then you will be hearing from us as we move along crafting the measure that Republicans will largely be behind.

And then we will sit down with Senator Schumer.

Thanks. Thanks a lot.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right.

So, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell addressing reporters there up on Capitol Hill.

What he's essentially talking about is, he's saying he and the Senate is not allowed to leave Washington until they pass this second bill. So he said yes to this House bill, this coronavirus emergency bill, and then, in addition to that, they will -- they being the Senate, will write, along with -- the Senate Republicans will write, along with the White House, their version of a bill, which he referred to as much larger proportions to meet this crisis.

He also said that these are extraordinary measures in extraordinary times, essentially to the members, we got to get it together because we need to help the American people.

[15:15:07]

All of this comes after the president just made a critical promise of major financial help, sending cash directly to Americans as early as the next two weeks.

Cristina Alesci is with me now.

And let me just, before -- I know we want to jump on when Mitch McConnell just said -- we have also just learned this is the salary cap threshold.

So, for folks, the $250 billion or the trillion that would be going to some of you said, they're looking to set a cap on individuals, the thresholds still under consideration, but individuals would need to make below $100,000. Perhaps the benefit could be capped for anyone making more than $75,000, then would receive that $1,000.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLITICS AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

And we're going to get a lot more detail over the coming days. And there's going to be a back-and-forth between Republicans and Democrats. And as you heard, McConnell was really interesting, was his tone.

To your point, he was basically telling his party, listen, we're not going to get everything we want. These are extraordinary times. You could probably assume that there was some kind of discussion with the White House before that press conference, because the White House really -- and we saw the Treasury secretary come out just before he did.

The White House really wants these measures to pass. And part of this is going to be airlines and bailouts and potential relief packages.

BALDWIN: Yes.

ALESCI: Everybody's very sensitive about the word bailout, but relief packages for airlines specifically.

BALDWIN: Talk about the airlines.

I was just checking my e-mail, and even at Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, a huge airport, travel down 40 percent.

ALESCI: Yes.

BALDWIN: You just think about these airlines, and what are they to do?

ALESCI: It's remarkable. And they are a big part of the economy.

And the fact that people are staying home, canceling their summer vacations now, that's having a real impact on their bottom lines. In fact, United said last night that they could see a loss in this quarter.

So that is significant. They wrote to Congress last night urgently petitioning for relief. But now workers of those airlines, you're talking about mechanics, flight attendants, they are concerned that we're going to see the same movie that we saw during 9/11, which is, the companies get the bailouts, and then the companies turn -- the financial assistance -- but then it doesn't trickle down to the workers.

So I was on the phone all morning with union members, who were basically like, we're not going to let this happen again. We need to make sure that our people are paid, and that they have some kind of insurance, they have some -- they preserve their benefits, because the other problem post-9/11 with the airlines was that, even after the financial assistance, some of them declared bankruptcy.

And when they did that, they were able to basically force pay cuts and pension cuts down the throats of workers. So, now workers are saying, that's not going to happen again.

And this is going to be part of the give and take between the administration, Republicans, Democrats, and they're going to have to figure out how to get this done.

BALDWIN: Get it done, work together, as he -- as the Senate majority leader said, in warp speed, and he knows that doesn't happen a whole heck of a lot around Capitol Hill.

Cristina Alesci, thank you so much for reading all of that through with me.

ALESCI: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Also this, this afternoon. Moments ago, New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio told people in the city to prepare for a possible, possible shelter-in-place order, like we're seeing in the city of San Francisco, where nearly seven million people are sheltering.

Shimon Prokupecz, he is out on the streets of New York for us.

And so, Shimon, that decision, Mayor de Blasio said, could come down in the next 24 to 48 hours. Are you seeing -- I see some people behind you out and about

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, Brooke, I'm going to step out of the camera here, because I want to show you that, what's going on behind me.

This is in Herald Square outside of Macy's, one of the busiest areas of New York City, certainly one of the shopping hubs of New York City. And by all appearances, you would think that this is maybe, in some ways, a regular a regular day for a lot of these folks here.

We see many people hear sitting around each other, in some ways, people sitting and eating, having their lunch, Macy's behind me still open. We're told that they are going to close tonight around 6:00 or so. And they are expected to be closed for at least two weeks.

But, certainly, you understand, with scenes like this, why the mayor is coming out and saying, these warnings that officials have been giving for people to stay indoors, don't be around other people. Stay away.

People are not necessarily listening to that. And so now you have the New York City mayor coming out and saying, in the next 48 hours, I'm going to make a decision on whether or not I need to force, somehow force, people to stay inside.

The details of that is not entirely clear, what it will entail. How they will enforce a shelter in place, and what they're going to do is not exactly clear.

[15:20:00]

But keep in mind -- and I think folks who are watching this shouldn't get concerned that they won't be able to leave their homes. If you have a reason to leave your home, if there's an emergency, if you're a health care worker who needs to get to your job, they're going to allow you to leave. But that decision, certainly, is going to be a game-changer,

restrictions that this city likely has never seen before -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Again, it's the possibility. Mayor de Blasio will make the call within the next 48 hours.

Shimon, thank you from Herald Square.

Let's now go back up to Capitol Hill for the Democratic leader to all of this and the minority leader, Chuck Schumer.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Our proposal mainlines money into small businesses quickly. They need it.

And we ask for forbearance. The federal government and the banks should not be able to foreclose on a house if you can't pay your mortgage. And we have asked that anything that's federally backed, student loans, mortgages, which are the value percentage of mortgages, and small business loans, that there be a six-month forbearance. They don't have to be collected.

Finally, we believe we have to mobilize the National Guard to help, who will feed and watch the kids of a medical worker who has to go to work, who will make sure that food is delivered to an elderly person who can't go out, who will make sure that kids get food who are not going to school and getting their school lunches.

So we need to employ people to do that right away, but we also need to employ the National Guard.

So, our legislation--

BALDWIN: So, so much of this obviously addressed to the federal level, but what are the states doing? What about the cities?

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is with me now.

Mayor Lightfoot, thank you so much for joining me. And I hope you're A-OK as of now.

MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: Pleasure.

BALDWIN: I do want to ask you about all this discussion about sheltering in place.

San Francisco's mayor ordered citizens there to shelter in place. Chicago's population is about three times larger than San Francisco. Is that something that you would seriously consider for Chicago?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, we're taking this step by step.

Our people over this last week in particular have really absorbed a lot of shocks, closing the schools. In the city of Chicago, we're moving to just essential services. People are wondering about closing the bars and restaurants, what's going to be the impact on the local economy?

We already saw a wave of cancellations of large events and conventions. So it's a lot for people to absorb at once. But, first and foremost, we're going to be guided by the data and the science.

That is what's driving public policy here in the city of Chicago. We're looking at a lot of options. We're looking at what the modeling shows us about the arc of the coronavirus over the next few weeks and few months.

So we're going to do what we think is in the best interests of keeping the public safe, but making sure that we continue to shore up our health care system and look out for the front-line workers.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

And that is a whole conversation we have been having and will continue to have.

But I'm curious. In Chicago, as we talk about bars, restaurants closed, you shouldn't have even small gatherings. Only for essential reasons should you really be out and about.

Are people heeding those warnings? And what are the repercussions, Ms. Mayor, if they do not?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, listen, we have been trying to do a lot to educate the public about why we are taking these steps, what the consequences of inaction are.

And I'm pleased to say that people in Chicago are really standing tall and rallying. We have seen a number of businesses that are shutting down. People are engaging in teleworking. So, I think people are being responsive, and realizing this is like no other moment in our recent history.

And I'm very proud of the people in the city of Chicago. We really haven't seen significant challenges, because we have really been trying to bring people along on the journey and educate them about the public health consequences.

BALDWIN: What about schools?

I know your governor ordered the closure of all schools until March 30. That is less than two weeks from today.

Do you think Chicago public schools will actually reopen by then?

LIGHTFOOT: Look, I can't predict two weeks out. But we're certainly preparing ourselves for longer, if need be.

If we reopen in two weeks, that's great. But we want to make sure that we're prepared for what the future may hold. So, we have got a lot of contingency plans that are in place with our schools, with city government, with our first responders, our health care system.

So we're really rallying and looking across the broad landscape to make sure that we're prepared to meet this challenge, and we are.

[15:25:03]

BALDWIN: How about -- we were just talking about airlines. And I think of Chicago. It's a hub for United.

I know that the CEO of United based there is urging this administration to -- quote -- "act quickly," meaning this week, shore up the industry, saying the coronavirus' impact is already worse than the days and months following the terror attacks of 9/11.

Should the airlines get that cash injection before American workers, do you think?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, I don't think it's one vs. the other. I think we have got to do both.

Obviously, our airlines are critically important to the economy, not just to the country, but of the world. And we need to reach out to them. They are suffering substantially. They're in negative bookings. They're having a significant liquidity crunch.

So, that has to be addressed. They have asked for a $60 billion package, and we support that. But we also have to think about those workers, particularly small businesses and the employees there. And we're looking at doing some things from a stimulus perspective for the city of Chicago.

BALDWIN: Like what?

LIGHTFOOT: But, again, these are numbers that -- well, I'm making sure looking to get -- to put together a fund to support small businesses, grants and loans, and also some direct cash infusions to workers.

But this is a problem that requires a B-solution, meaning billions of dollars. There's no city that I know that can muster those kinds of resources.

We're going to do what we can, but we need the federal government to step up and step up quickly.

BALDWIN: Yes, warp speed, as Mitch McConnell just said.

LIGHTFOOT: That's right.

BALDWIN: Mayor Lightfoot in Chicago, thank you very much.

LIGHTFOOT: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Stay well.

Coming up next: One sheriff's office in Kentucky was forced to camp outside a man's home to keep him under quarantine. We will talk about what the law allows to enforce a lockdown.

Plus, more than 1,500 National Guard members are now actively helping with the coronavirus response in 22 states. Many more are on alert.

Details on exactly what their roles will be -- coming up.

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